Meeting with an estate planning attorney can be a daunting task. Not only do you have to face the unpleasant prospect of planning for what happens after your death, but there are so many different factors to take into account that the whole process can quickly become overwhelming.
While it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit intimidated when you first meet with your estate lawyer, it’s important to keep your appointment and continue moving forward with your estate planning, so that your loved ones aren’t caught off guard when you pass away. The more prepared you are for your meeting, the more confident you will be when you speak with your estate planning attorney.
Here are five important questions to consider before your first meeting:
- What Assets Do I Have? It is important to start the process by making of a list of all your assets. There are two types of assets—tangible and intangible—and a complete list will include both. Examples of assets include real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, insurance policies, fine jewelry, art, and digital assets, as well as any other personal belongings that hold financial or sentimental value. By making a list before you go in, you will be able to let your estate planning attorney know exactly what you’re working with.
- Should I Consider a Trust? The two most common ways to pass along your assets after your death are via a will or a trust. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, if you own a business, or have a larger estate, a trust will be the better option. A trust is also preferable if you want to include stipulations about how or when your assets may be distributed, for example, if you have a child with a financially irresponsible spouse, or who has substance use issues, etc. Let your attorney know about these specifics, so they may guide you towards the proper estate planning tools.
- Who Should Be My Executor, and Who Should I Designate as my Power of Attorney agent? Choosing the person who will administer your estate is a very important decision. Whether you’re choosing the executor of your will, a trustee, or an attorney-in-fact to make financial decisions in your absence, it’s essential that you pick the right person. Such an individual must be someone you trust, but also someone who is experienced, well-organized, and financially savvy. Many people choose an attorney or financial advisor to act in these roles, while others rely on the people who are closest to them.
- How Can I Plan for End-of-Life Health Care? Although you may be in good health now, it is important to consider what might happen if you become incapacitated, or fall suddenly ill. You should speak with your doctor about your health care plan, and clearly spell out all eventualities in your will or trust. Do you want a feeding tube? A ventilator? These are some of the questions you will discuss with your attorney.
- Should I Share My Estate Plan with My Family? It may be a good idea to discuss your arrangements with your beneficiaries or other loved ones ahead of time, so that there are no surprises upon your death. This is especially true of the people you have named as executor or trustee, or who you have designated as an agent in your power of attorney. These roles come with hefty responsibility, and your named agents should be clear on what is expected of them when the time comes.
Planning for the distribution of your assets is a process that is necessary, albeit intimidating. By being as prepared as you can before meeting with your estate lawyer, you can make the process as easy and painless as possible.
The best way to determine whether you need a will or a trust (or both) is through consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. David J. Barry of Barry Law, LLC welcomes the opportunity to discuss your needs. Please contact us using the brief form below, or by contacting us at (913) 336-1600.